Accessibility Explained

Accessibility Explained

What is accessibility and who is it for?

Accessibility is the practice of creating websites, apps and services that are usable by anyone, irrespective of physical, mental or cognitive disabilities/impairments, including:

  • Blind or partially sighted users who may rely on a screen reader to help them navigate a website
  • Colour blind users who are unable to distinguish between certain colour tones
  • Users with hearing impairment, who may have difficulty interpreting video content unless it is presented with subtitles
  • Users with impaired mobility, who often will navigate a website using a keyboard rather than a mouse
  • Users with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia/dyscalculia.
  • Users with neurological disorders, such as those with epilepsy; or users with ADHD, who can become distracted easily and find it hard to focus on a task

Although making sites accessible has broad benefits beyond these cases; for example:

  • Users often prefer to tab between form fields, irrespective of whether they have impaired mobility
  • Correct use of colour contrast is helpful for anyone trying to use a mobile app in bright sunlight, as well as users with colour blindness
  • Properly defined headings are particularly helpful for anyone using a screen reader, but will also have positive implications for SEO

How many people does it affect?

According to the Department For Work & Pensions Family resources survey, 1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability that potentially affects how they access websites. In the EU alone there are 80 million people classed as having a disability – more than the population of UK & Ireland combined.

Why is it important?

Accessibility is important for several reasons, namely:

  • Inclusion: Ensuring that anyone can access your site with ease ensures that your product or service is reaching the largest number of users possible
  • Reputation: Having an accessible website makes it clear that you’ve prioritised the needs of disabled users
  • Legal compliance: Since 22nd September 2018, any public sector websites have to conform to the UK Government’s regulations on accessibility
  • User experience: Designing a product to be inclusive means that you’ve considered a multitude of use cases, which in turn will result in improved experience for all users.

How is accessibility assessed?

The internationally recognised industry standard for ensuring websites are accessible is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. These guidelines are published by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)

What are WCAG levels?

WCAG has 3 levels; A, AA and AAA, with AAA being the highest level. Each level has a set of criteria highlighting how that level of accessibility can be reached. Most website producers aim to be compliant with level AA.

How is accessibility testing conducted?

Various tools and techniques are used to assess accessibility. Assistive technologies (such as a screen reader or screen magnification tools) are used to mimic how visually impaired users would interact with a website. Copy, content and context of site information is assessed to ensure its easy to understand

Website markup code is assessed to ensure its adheres to standards using a combination of manual inspection and automated tools.

What are assistive technologies?

Assistive technologies are any tool, peripheral device, browser setting or operating system feature which allows a user to interact with an application, website or service irrespective of disability. Examples include:

  • Screen readers used to read out text content
  • Magnification software used to enlarge areas of the screen
  • Refreshable braille readers, which convert onscreen text into braille characters
  • Speech recognition software, which allows users to input text via speech instead of using a keyboard

How do I ensure my website is accessible?

An accessibility audit by Zimo can test the accessibility of your site. We can report issues informing you where the issue arises, what it effects and how it can be fixed.

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